Mild Preferences Free Us

All suffering comes from our need to have things a certain way.

I can hear your protests. I can hear them because I’ve had them, too. I still sometimes have them. “I’m suffering because of this illness or physical pain.” “I’m suffering because someone I love isn’t available to me.” “I’m suffering because I don’t have enough money.” And our lists go on.

When I feel sick or experience pain, even chronic pain, it is my thinking that causes the suffering. “I shouldn’t be in pain. I’m tired of this. When will I feel better? I can’t take another minute of this . . .” When I accept what is, when I allow things to be as they are, rather than how I think I need them to be, then the suffering stops.

I may still be uncomfortable with the pain and that too will shift. When I have a mild preference for being pain-free, then I create more space for the pain to ease or for me modify how I do my day even while experiencing the pain.

When we feel out of control, we tend to have strong preferences. We become very attached to those preferences and when they don’t happen, we feel even more out of control. Quickly, we spin into a downward spiral.

If instead, we can use the feeling of being out of control as the signal to dial back our preference to mild, we then begin an upward spiral. “It would be great if I felt better. And, I don’t feel well at the moment. And, this is what I can do even while feeling this way.”

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Last summer, I had an extremely strong preference that this spider hang out somewhere far, far away from my bathroom window. Since he was on the outside of the screen on the second floor, it would have been quite challenging to offer him my typical spider “relocation package.” So, instead, I experimented with befriending him with the safety of the screen between us. I eventually was able to downgrade to a medium preference . . . 🙂

Mild preferences move us toward accepting, even sometimes loving, what is. Because the preference is mild, I’m fine even if I don’t get what I prefer in a moment. My own personal experience of working with dialing back my preferences to mild: what I would prefer often naturally comes to pass. I suspect this happens because I don’t have such heavy, attachment energy involved in the mix.

And sometimes, whether or not I get what I prefer, I experience this sweet vulnerability and aliveness because I have surrendered to what is. In this vulnerability, I feel my connection to the human race and a simple compassion for me and those involved in the situation.

The more I align with what is, whatever that is, the more I am connected – to myself, to life, to those around me, instead of causing my own suffering by railing against what is.

Ah, the sweetness of mild preferences . . .

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Ann Strong, founder of Strong from Within and Thriving Coaches.

Author of Thriving Work.


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